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A prankster and inventive genius from birth, Hermes (or MERCURY for the romans) was the messenger of the gods and guide of dead souls to the Underworld. He aided the heroes Odysseus and Perseus in their quests.
Mercury`s symbol of office as divine messenger was his staff, or caduceus. This was originally a willow wand with entwined ribbons, traditional badge of the herald. But the ribbons were eventually depicted as snakes. To support this mythologically, a story evolved that Hermes used the caduceus to separate two fighting snakes which forthwith twined themselves together in peace.